Speaking the Unspeakable in Postwar Germany: Toward a Public Discourse on the Holocaust

Cornell University Press
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Speaking the Unspeakable in Postwar Germany is an interdisciplinary study of a diverse set of public speeches given by major literary and cultural figures in the 1950s and 1960s. Through close readings of canonical speeches by Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno, Ingeborg Bachmann, Martin Buber, Paul Celan, Uwe Johnson, Peter Szondi, and Peter Weiss, Sonja Boos demonstrates that these speakers both facilitated and subverted the construction of a public discourse about the Holocaust in postwar West Germany. The author's analysis of original audio recordings of the speech events (several of which will be available on a companion website) improves our understanding of the spoken, performative dimension of public speeches.While emphasizing the social constructedness of discourse, experience, and identity, Boos does not neglect the pragmatic conditions of aesthetic and intellectual production—most notably, the felt need to respond to the breach in tradition caused by the Holocaust. The book thereby illuminates the process by which a set of writers and intellectuals, instead of trying to mend what they perceived as a radical break in historical continuity or corroborating the myth of a "new beginning," searched for ways to make this historical rupture rhetorically and semantically discernible and literally audible.
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About the author

Sonja Boos is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Oregon.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cornell University Press
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Published on
Mar 10, 2015
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Pages
248
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ISBN
9780801471940
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Europe / Germany
History / Holocaust
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the moment I got to Auschwitz I was completely detached. I disconnected my heart and intellect in an act of self-defense, despair, and hopelessness." With these words Sara Nomberg-Przytyk begins this painful and compelling account of her experiences while imprisoned for two years in the infamous death camp. Writing twenty years after her liberation, she recreates the events of a dark past which, in her own words, would have driven her mad had she tried to relive it sooner. But while she records unimaginable atrocities, she also richly describes the human compassion that stubbornly survived despite the backdrop of camp depersonalization and imminent extermination.

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From her portraits of camp personalities, an extraordinary and horrifying profile emerges of Dr. Josef Mengele, whose medical experiments resulted in the slaughter of nearly half a million Jews. Nomberg-Przytyk's job as an attendant in Mengle's hospital allowed her to observe this Angel of Death firsthand and to provide us with the most complete description to date of his monstrous activities.

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